Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Human Genome Project: Ethical Implications


Genetic Engineering

The first ethical problem that The Human Genome project deals with is the issue of genetic engineering, which is the manipulation of genes. The purpose of the project is to map the human genetic blueprint. This would allow scientists to link diseases to the genes that cause them and therefore develop treatments. Although the main goal of the project is to find these “faulty” genes, it also involves finding the specific genes linked to physical and psychological traits. As a result, scientists would be able to use this information to manipulate these traits by using genetic engineering.

There are two types of genetic intervention: somatic cell and germline intervention.

Changes made through somatic cell manipulation are limited to one individual while changes made through germline manipulation are passed on to the genome of future generations. Germline interventions involve more ethical concerns than somatic cell interventions. This is because, unlike risks involving somatic cell manipulation which only influence one single person, risks involving germline interventions can be passed on to future generations.  However, germline manipulations can be way more efficient at permanently getting rid of certain diseases.

 Genetic engineering can also be scientifically problematic. This is because in order to perfect the enhancement of genes there are other risks that may arise from it. For example, many diseases depend on more than one gene, and there is a high probability that one of the genes might also be responsible for other parts of the organism.


The major concern that The Human Genome Project deals with is whether or not genetic engineering is ethical. The information being collected from the project allows scientists to locate the genes responsible for specific traits. Although they haven’t found which specific set of genes are responsible for intelligence, there is a very high possibility that they will do so in the near future. If they do so scientists could, just like they could with any other trait, alter them to make someone more or less intelligent. Although this is not the goal of the project, it is something that we have to keep in mind.

Also, there is the problem of somatic cell and germline intervention.  Germline manipulation can be more efficient at getting rid of a disease not only for one individual but also for his or her future generations. But this is also true for other physical and psychological traits. If one person decides to alter his or her physical appearance and get rid of certain characteristics, this will also affect future generations.


·         Is it worth taking the risk of developing unexpected problems in order to develop treatments for genetic disorders?

·         How might finding the genes responsible for intelligence be helpful or problematic?

Carroll, M., & Ciaffa, J. (2003, August). Retrieved from

No comments:

Post a Comment